Jan. 27, 2014
FAYETTEVILLE, NC -- Travis Marcus has grown accustomed to hearing his name called. Forty-one times since the start of last season, Fayetteville State’s senior guard has heard it called as part of the team’s starting lineup. He’s heard it several more times after the 163 field goals he’s made as a member of the Broncos men’s basketball team.
But there was a time not too long ago when Marcus wouldn’t hear his name called, at least not in front of thousands of adoring fans at Felton J. Capel Arena. Back in the 2009-10 school year, Marcus was simply one of those fans, a regular student observing the basketball on display in front of him. A year removed from his senior high school season at Silver Spring, Maryland’s Wheaton HS, the real possibility existed that, aside from pickup games and intramurals, Marcus’ competitive basketball career would not extend to college.
Part of the reason Marcus came to FSU was the chance to walk onto former head coach Sam Hanger’s team. When Hanger and Fayetteville State parted ways, though, Marcus spent his first year at FSU not a member of a varsity athletic program. Members of the Broncos did see him play intramural ball, though, and that’s how Marcus’s path from regular student to student-athlete first saw promise.
“A lot of the players on the team here would go and watch the games and that’s how Coach (Alphonza) Kee found out about me,” Marcus said. “And he’s the one who told me I should try out.”
Tryouts started, with Marcus and about 30 others vying for what would become one spot on the FSU roster. This meant every play was critical. Marcus had to perform well to get that spot.
“I had to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning for tryouts at the gym across the street,” Marcus said. “I went in there in a suit and tie. I wanted to show (Kee) I was serious.
“After the tryouts I knew I was going to make the team. I went in there with a different mindset than anyone else. They went in there real lackadaisical and I went in there with a purpose. … When we had to find out who made the team, I stayed around to wait. I didn’t want him to call me. I wanted to stick around to see if I made it.”
Marcus did make the team, and in doing so he started off a career track similar to current FSU assistant coach Corey Thompson. Thompson started off his own college career as a student at Fayetteville State before transferring to Winston-Salem State and seeing playing time with the Rams. Ironically enough, Marcus and Thompson share August 30 birthdays.
“He’s a go-getter,” Thompson said. “He’s a guy who works really hard to try to improve himself and improve his game.
“I can only imagine his process, what he went through. Once you make the team, it’s like two goals. You make the team and once you make the team, now you want to play. That’s the one thing Travis was able to do. He was able to make the team but still have that drive and desire to want to play and get better.”
Marcus needed that desire his first year on the team, because playing time behind Broncos star Jamel Carpenter was limited. Marcus averaged just 10.3 minutes per game his first year and 11 minutes in his second. He made just four total starts in that timeframe.
By his third year, though, Marcus had done enough to earn both scholarship money and a place in the team’s starting lineup. He shot 51.3 percent as a junior, scoring 5.7 points per game and averaging 3.7 rebounds. He hauled in a career-high 10 boards in a game against Johnson C. Smith.
Marcus credits that junior success to his experience as both student and student-athlete.
“I’ve been on both ends of the stick,” Marcus said. “I’ve seen how it is to be a student and to look on the court and be like ‘I think I may be better than them. I should be on the team.’ But when you get there, it’s a whole different ballgame. It’s not as easy as it looks from being in the stands.”
This season, Marcus has stepped his game up even further. He is averaging 7.2 points per game for the 13-6 Broncos. Against Bowie State earlier this month, he’s scored a career-high 17 points.
Marcus’ favorite tattoo may tell his story up to this point best. The tattoo reads: “Walk by faith, not by sight.”
“It means with basketball, like everything, you can’t go after the goal only because you see it,” Marcus said. “You have to go after the impossible. Things you can’t see and the things you don’t envision, just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not possible.”
Marcus’s current goal is to help FSU keep winning. But after he graduates and the business administration major’s basketball career is complete, he already has a new goal in place.
“I’ve been cutting hair since high school,” Marcus said. “So if basketball doesn’t work, I plan on opening up my own chain of barber shops back home (in Washington, DC).”